US News “Памятник”: in Russia, monuments of discord

23:20  03 march  2021
23:20  03 march  2021 Source:   liberation.fr

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La place Loubianka, ornée de la statue de Félix Dzerjinski, le fondateur de la Tchéka, l'ancêtre du KGB, à Moscou, en 1964. © UPI Lubyanka Square, adorned with the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, the ancestor of the KGB, in Moscow, in 1964.

Памятник , pamiatnik : a memorial, or a monument. A lively and extremely political subject in Russia. There are the monuments erected by power to great men, whose memory he decides to recover: Prince Vladimir of Kiev, evangelizer of the Slavic lands, whose giant statue, built in front of the Kremlin in 2016, is like a finger of honor addressed to Ukraine, which is also claiming its historical heritage. The statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov, legendary inventor of the famous assault rifle, inaugurated in 2017 in the Russian capital, and whose base had to be rebuilt in disaster, after it turned out that the submachine gun depicted in bas-relief was actually a Nazi StG 44 rifle.

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A multitude of interpretations of history

But there is also in Russia a myriad of informal pamiatniki which counterbalance the rowdy statues of official heroes, recalling the complexity of Russian history and its multitude of competing interpretations. This is, for example, the "Last Address" project, based on the work of the Memorial Association. Near the entrance gates of buildings, "Last Address" sets up small metal commemorative plaques bearing the name, occupation, date of birth and date of death of a victim of Stalinist repression once living there. But it is also the improvised memorial to Boris Nemtsov, the opponent assassinated in February 2015 on the Great Stone Bridge, a stone's throw from the Kremlin. During the march organized in his memory, hundreds of thousands of Muscovites had laid flowers at the scene of his assassination . Since then, volunteers have taken turns daily to renew the bouquets and ensure that their improvised monument will not be dispersed by the police.

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 Russia: six years ago, the assassination of Boris Nemtsov in Moscow © REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov Moscow, March 2015, on the bridge where Boris Nemtsov was assassinated, near the Kremlin, his supporters laid flowers . Six years ago Boris Nemtsov was gunned down under the walls of the Kremlin as he walked home with his partner. Supporters of Boris Nemtsov are called upon to come and lay flowers on the bridge crossing the Moskva, at the very spot where the opponent was assassinated. It came close to this commemoration being banned.

"Divert attention"

Sometimes these monuments lead to conflict. On February 20, the city of Moscow announced the opening of an electronic vote on the erection of a new statue in Lubyanka Square, in front of the former KGB headquarters currently occupied by the FSB, the security services Russian. The official reason? The place "made empty" without a central element. Except that it is no coincidence that there were none until then ... Until the fall of the USSR, Lubyanka Square was occupied by a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka, the bloodthirsty political police, ancestor of the KGB. The monument was pulled down by mobs in 1991 and installed in a park in the capital, among other vestiges of the communist past.

Among the two options offered to Muscovites: the return of this statue, then, or the erection of a monument to Alexander Nevsky, hero of the medieval wars against the Teutonic knights. The vote turned into a pitched battle between clerics, nationalists, liberals and nostalgic for the Soviet period, so much so that six days later, the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, decided to stop the expenses and keep the place as what for now. The idea, according to sources in the town hall, was to "distract from the protests" demanding the release of Alexei Navalny . But the subject of the pamiatniki turned out to be just as explosive as that of the opponent of Vladimir Putin.

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